Intro

This blog gains its name from the book Steele's Answers published in 1912. I am slowly blogging through Steele's Answers, posting each Q & A in the order in which they appear (whether I personally agree with the answer or not). But, these posts come from several other sources, as well. I post particularly eloquent passages from Dr. Steele's other writings. Occasionally I post "guest blogs" from other holiness writers.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Danger of a Light Estimate of Sin

"Nevertheless I tell you the truth: It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go, I will send him unto you. And he, when he is come, will convict the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and ye behold me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world hath been judged." — John 16:7-11 ASV.

A light estimate of sin is the bane of modern Christian thought. It is attended by a depreciation of the moral law. Since the law underlies the atonement, whatever lessens the majesty of the law detracts from the necessity and value of the atonement. Thus these fundamentals all suffer loss when one of them, sin, law, atonement, is discounted. To these three vital doctrines we may add the pardon of sin and sanctification, together with eternal retribution. When one of these doctrines is undervalued, all are soon weakened. Says Principal Moule:

A full, strong current of opinion in the professing Church of Christ runs at the present day directly against a grave, thoroughgoing doctrine of sin and its correlative truths of eternal judgment and of the unspeakable need of the atoning blood and of a living personal faith in the crucified and risen One. One would think that some earnest teachers had learned, by some other path surely than that of the Word of God, to look with temperate eyes upon sin as a phenomenon sure at last to disappear under long processes of divine order.

The final evanescence of moral evil is a pleasing delusion of liberalism which cannot endure the idea of sin as an eternal blot on the face of the universe. A careful study of the parables of Christ shows the human family in the day of judgment separated and sentenced to the opposite destinies of punishment and reward with no hint of an ultimate reunion. Moral evil as a finalty under the government of omnipotent goodness is a problem of less difficulty than the permission of sin by absolute holiness. The argument which justifies the arbitrary non-prevention of sin will justify its sovereign non-extinction. But we need no such argument. God has only one way for the extinction of sin, the blood of His Son presented by penitent faith. He will never crush sin with an almighty trip hammer, as Universalists desire; nor will He crush the sinner into nonentity to suit annihilationism. Hence final impenitence can have no other sequence than everlasting misery. Without any revelation Plato comes to this conclusion. His moral reason demanded it. Hence it is not unreasonable.

What is the remedy for inadequate and superficial views of sin as a transient, cutaneous disease soon to be outgrown by the soul? Preach earnestly and persistently the office of the Paraclete as the convincer of the stupendous sin of unbelief toward Christ, of righteousness and of judgment to come. Liberalism can be cured only by the awakening truths of Christ's gospel. No office of the Comforter can be neglected without moral disaster, which always overtakes those who advance beyond the New Testament in their fancied progress. "Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ hath not God" (II John 9, Revised Version).

— from The Gospel of the Comforter (1898) Chapter 6.



Friday, October 17, 2014

Conviction for Inward Sin

"Nevertheless I tell you the truth: It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go, I will send him unto you. And he, when he is come, will convict the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and ye behold me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world hath been judged." — John 16:7-11 ASV.

The Spirit not only convicts unbelievers of willful sin, but He also convicts the regenerate of "sin improperly so called" (Wesley), a wrong state of the sensibilities lying back of the will. Even after the will has, through the new birth, been brought into an attitude of submission to Christ, there remain tendencies and propensities perilous to the spiritual life and antagonistic to the new principle of love to God which is now enthroned within. This rendered many of the Corinthians "carnal," so that Paul hesitated to call them "spiritual," though they were, "as babes in Christ," possessing a feeble spiritual life instead of that more abundant life which Christ came to impart. This lingering carnality, "the easily besetting" or closely clinging sin, styled by Delitzsch "the indwelling evil," was the force which was impelling many of the Galatians downward instead of upward; for having begun in the Spirit, they were ending in the flesh. We must ascribe to the same cause that lack of perfect loyalty and perfect devotion to Christ in all of Paul's band of missionary helpers in Rome, Timothy excepted, of whom the sorrowful apostle says, "For they all seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ." By such a remark as this the apostle to the Gentiles does not de-Christianize those members of Christ's body who are still actuated by selfishness. Rather he represents them as weak and defective believers who have not yet submitted to a total self-crucifixion as a prerequisite to perfect love to Christ. Paul does not include himself and Timothy in this class (Phil. ii. 19-21).

— from The Gospel of the Comforter (1898) Chapter 6.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Salvation by Faith in Christ

"Nevertheless I tell you the truth: It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go, I will send him unto you. And he, when he is come, will convict the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and ye behold me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world hath been judged." — John 16:7-11 ASV.

Another truth implied in the Spirit's conviction of the world is that present salvation and eternal life depend solely on faith in Christ for which there can be no substitute. By this declaration the pious, God-fearing pagan living up to his best light is not excluded from salvation. He evinces that he has the spirit of faith and the purpose of righteousness which are accepted in the involuntary absence of a knowledge of the historic Christ. He has engraven on his own character, through co-operation with the universal activity of the Holy Spirit, the imperfect outlines of the image of Christ, styled by Joseph Cook "the essential Christ." When the apostles demonstrated to the conscience of the Jews that there was salvation in no other name, not even in Abraham their father nor in Moses their lawgiver, they were convicted of the most stupendous crime possible, but not beyond the forgiving grace of their disowned and crucified Messiah. Great as was their first crime of murdering their King, their second offense of rejecting His claims did not place them individually beyond His pardoning mercy, if they would repent and believe, although it sealed their national doom. Their unbelief vitiated all their fancied righteousness sought from the law and rendered it detestable and all their sacrifices abominable to the searcher of hearts. They were preeminently guilty of unbelief. The temporal consequences to their nation manifestly confirm the assertion that it was the most heinous of all sins.

— from The Gospel of the Comforter (1898) Chapter 6.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Holy Spirit as Convictor of Sin

"Nevertheless I tell you the truth: It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go, I will send him unto you. And he, when he is come, will convict the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and ye behold me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world hath been judged." — John 16: 7-11 ASV.

"And he, when he is come, will convict the world of sin."

Of what form of sin? Not of those social offenses called crimes, violations of the precepts and prohibitions of the Decalogue, the basis of the criminal code in all civilized countries. Human courts are competent to convict of crime. Nor does the Spirit convict of those injuries to ourselves known as vices, moral delinquencies not named in the Ten commandments. Conscience is sufficient to convict of these, aided by self-love and self-respect. But human law and conscience combined cannot eradicate evil from the heart. Philosophy has tried it and failed. Poetry, especially comedy and satire, have ineffectually attempted to convict the world of sin in all past ages. They have chastised cutaneous sins, denouncing the drunkard, the glutton, the opium user, the fornicator. All these were self-condemned before the shaft of ridicule was hurled at them. Each of them could say:

"I see the right, and I approve it too;
Condemn the wrong, and yet the wrong pursue."

But is not God's law thundering from Sinai a sufficient witness to convict of sin? No, it never did convince the world that sin is evil per se, a thing to be abominated, to be abhorred and shunned because of its inherent hatefulness and unspeakable vileness. The divine law is effectual only as it causes sin to be dreaded and avoided merely because of the punishment which will surely visit it.

There is needed more than an accuser and punisher of sin, a power which can not only probe and search the heart and turn it inside out, exposing to the sunlight all its loathsome leprosies, but a power which can effect a radical cure. The sinful heart needs a surgeon so sharp-sighted as to detect this deadly disease under all its disguises of euphonious names, and a physician so skillful as to apply an effectual remedy.

That healer of the sinful soul is the divine Comforter, mercifully sent, not to torment the world by forbidding its pleasures, but to bless the world by turning it away from its iniquities. Sins of every kind are the fruit of an invisible root to which they bear no outward resemblance. This root is too subtile for human laws and courts to see. It requires anointed eyes. No human philosophy had ever found the sum and substance, the poisonous essence of sin, in unbelief.

How can this be the all-inclusive sin? Is not historic doubt respecting persons and events innocent and even commendable? To such questions of a shallow rationalism we answer that unbelief in respect to Christ is more than withholding intellectual assent to a historic record. It is ingratitude towards a Benefactor and Saviour, and rebellion against a rightful Ruler, a refusal to bow the knee to the personal revelation of God. The cause of this unbelief is not intellectual, arising from a lack of evidences, but moral, arising from a lack of willingness. Christ is rejected because He lays the axe at the root sin, plants a hedge of thorns across the path of sinful pleasure, and kindles a consuming flame in the house of the worldling's idols. The Holy Spirit convicts unbelievers of a lie when they pretend that their unbelief toward Christ is merely honest doubt. It is because faith in Him draws after it what is conceived to be the unpleasant obligation to obey Him, that they are unbelieving. In fact, the Greek Testament has but one word for unbelief and disobedience. In truth and verity, however boldly and persistently the world may deny it, the fact is that unbelief in respect to Christ lies in the will so corrupt that it hugs sin and will not let it be taken away by the Son of God, who came into the world and submitted to the shame and agony of the cross for this very purpose.

— from The Gospel of the Comforter (1898) Chapter 6.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Reciprocal Indwelling

"And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us." — 1 John 3:24 (KJV) 

This reciprocal indwelling is a double wonder. If the indwelling of Christ by his representative, the Holy Spirit, is a mystery, the indwelling of the believer's soul in Christ is to one who has no experience a mystery of mysteries beyond reason, and beyond such natural faith as is possible to the unregenerate, except on the theory of pantheism. This theory exaggerates God's omnipresence. It makes him everything as well as everywhere; as a soul in man, in nature, in the universe, just as life is in animal bodies. This soul has self-consciousness only in man. Man's individuality is a brief illusion, as a bubble momentarily floating on a river, then losing its form in the current which bears it onward to the ocean. There is in pantheism no such thing as personality in man or in God. It denies freedom in both. This implies that neither God nor man has a moral character or a moral sense. God is a blind, non-descript force acting through material organisms. Neither sin nor holiness has any place in this philosophy. There are two objections: first, the testimony of consciousness to freedom and moral accountability; and second, the Bible idea of God as a perfect personality, having intelligence, feeling, will, and moral freedom. We now have a basis for stating the doctrine of the indwelling of God in the believer and the indwelling of the believer in God. Both personalities are retained, but mentally interpenetrated. The Spirit does not take forcible possession of the body and mind, as evil spirits do in the case of demoniacs, dervishes, and devotees of Hinduism, but he gently enlightens, purifies, and guides the trusting and renovated soul, and through it he controls the body. As a Person the Spirit has an intelligent and definite aim, which is to produce and conserve holiness in the believer. Such a person dwells ill Christ because he is ensphered in his mighty personality, and encompassed by his love: —

"Plunged in the Godhead's deepest sea,
And lost in its immensity."

The reciprocal indwelling is the strongest possible expression for the union of God and the believer. The relation so intimate is indescribably blissful. It begirds weakness with omnipotence. It banishes fear. It arches the future with the rainbow of hope.

"And when I'm to die,
'Receive me,' I'll cry,
For Jesus hath loved me,
I cannot tell why.
"But this I do find,
We two are so joined,
He'll not live in glory
And leave me behind."

What a sense of security one has who carries God in his bosom and at the same time is consciously dwelling in the Gibraltar of God's overshadowing presence, power, and love. Such a man is gloriously delivered from fear and doubt. He has the full assurance of faith, and the victory over the world which comes through faith.

Jesus Exultant (1899) Chapter 12.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Habitation of the Human Spirit by the Holy Spirit

Professor Austin Phelps remarks that next to the mystery of the Three Persons in the one divine nature is the habitation of the human spirit by the Holy Spirit interpenetrating its substance with his vitalizing presence, pervading all the faculties of the human mind, becoming the life of its life, the soul within a soul, in a sense to which no other union makes any approximation. "He that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit" (1 Cor. vi. 17). This mystical union is symbolized by the human body united with the head, the branches and the vine, the union of husband and wife, the dependence of the temple on its corner-stone. Paul has a union with Christ by the Holy Spirit so intimate that he speaks of his own heart throbbing in the bosom of Jesus Christ: "For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ" (Phil. i. 8). It has been said that such is the Spirit's efficacy that there is not one thought, feeling, or emotion pervading the man Jesus Christ, amid the glories of the upper Sanctuary, but may be said to be reproduced in the experience of his people on the earth, so that their every want and sorrow vibrates to him like the touching of a chord of which he is instantly aware. This telegraphic connection is implied in the joy of the angels over one penitent sinner, a ripple wave of gladness rolling over all the heavenly hosts. This communion of feeling is because the Holy Spirit who dwells in Christ dwells also in his people.

Jesus Exultant (1899) Chapter 12.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Differences in the Way the Spirit Comes

There is a difference in the way of the Spirit's coming in his fullness. The day of Pentecost is not to be taken as an exact model; certainly it is not in the supernatural concomitants, such as the sound as of a cyclone, the tongues of fire, and "the miracle of ears," rather than tongues, every man of sixteen nationalities hearing in his own language "the wonderful works of God."

It was proper that the advent of the promised Paraclete should be signalized by extraordinary and impressive phenomena. This is usual at new beginnings as at the giving of the Law on Sinai. In a lower degree, something of the same kind is noted in the great outpouring of the Spirit in missions, such as have graciously favored some of the Baptist and Methodist missions in India in recent years, and in revivals at home, sweeping over the country like a tidal wave. In these times of refreshing, Christian men are suddenly, mightily, manifestly, filled with the Holy Spirit as the Comforter, and unbelievers are deluged with his power in conviction of sin.

It is natural for us to fail into the mistake of inferring that the incoming of the Spirit to take up his permanent abode in the inmost life of the believer, must be attended by the enthusiasm and overflowing gladness of Pentecost. The Spirit is not limited to one method of manifestation. He may accentuate love or peace, or some fruit other than joy, which is the most emotional of them all. For this reason there are special dangers to be guarded against.

The blessing is often too much dependent on the concourse of many believers of like experience, or it is superficial and extends only to the emotions, the outermost and more accessible currents of the Soul's life. This we may call ecstatic fullness. The seat of character, the will in its deepest root, has not been completely subdued, and the inmost life has not been transformed. This is seen in the vacuity, the dissatisfaction which follows a change in externals, an abatement of the excitement of a jubilant crowd, and a removal from the contagious gladness of other Christians. Then we find out whether we ourselves have been baptized with fire, or whether we have been warmed by other people's fires.

Moreover, it must have been noted by careful observers that there are Christians of the type of Barnabas, "a son of Consolation, a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost." These never speak of a cyclonic experience, a marked and memorable event sharply defined in memory. Yet the fullness of the Spirit manifests itself in deep and intense devotion to Christ; in a life of constant obedience and complete victory over sin; in a walk in the light of God's countenance; in a simple trust and uninterrupted and cloudless communion with the Father and the Son; and in the humility of a self-effacing love to all whom they can reach with their good deeds and prayers, whether friends or foes. We observe that such souls do not recur to dates, to sudden and memorable transitions and spiritual uplifts. Like Lydia, their hearts seem to have been gently opened to regenerating grace, and the Paraclete without observation has noiselessly gone from apartment to apartment till he has taken complete possession. This we may call ethical fullness. "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled."

Jesus Exultant (1899) Chapter 12.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Witnesses to the Indwelling Spirit

In all the Christian ages there have been witnesses to the conscious indwelling of the Holy Spirit. These have been few and discredited in eras of rationalism, and stigmatized as mystics and fanatics in periods of formalism; but they have been numerous and received with credence in the most spiritual eras and sections of the Church. Their testimony is confirmed by their deadness to sin and self and fullness of joy. "It happens sometimes that the indwelling of Christ and God and his Spirit signalizes itself with such energy in the believer, that the human individual life is overflowed and swallowed up by the divine, as a river of delight" (Delitzsch, Biblical Psychology, p. 418). Delitzsch quotes the case of the "holy Ephrem who experienced such wondrous consolation that he often cried, 'Lord withdraw thy hand a little, for my heart is too weak to receive such excessive joy.'" John Fletcher at times offered a similar prayer. There are now on the earth witnesses to the conscious indwelling of the Holy Ghost in larger numbers probably than ever before. I know a man in Christ twenty-eight years ago — in the body, or out of the body, no matter which — into whose consciousness the Comforter came and took up his permanent abode, in a day and hour never to be forgotten either in this world or in that to come. Invisible himself he glorified Christ whom he revealed within as a bright reality, as he did in Paul, when God revealed his Son in him.

Jesus Exultant (1899) Chapter 12.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Were the Wesleys Freemasons?

QUESTION: We recently heard a Methodist preacher say that John and Charles Wesley were Freemasons. Is there any foundation to this statement?

ANSWER: This is news to me. I have been reading about the Wesleys all my days, especially in Tyerman's three big volumes on John Wesley, and I have not found it. He evidently put on record everything he could find.

Steele's Answers p. 193.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Third Blessing?

QUESTION: Is there a third, distinctive blessing after entire sanctification called the baptism of the Spirit, the disciples having been entirely sanctified before Pentecost?

ANSWER: I find no proof of a distinct work of purifying before Pentecost at which time Peter testifies "their hearts were purified by faith" (Acts 15:9). There were many refreshings and begirdings of the Spirit subsequently, and there are experiences of sudden and great spiritual enlargement, but these are rare, and exceptional in preparation for some special work.

Steele's Answers p. 193.